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Earlier this week, Facebook released a statement about ads it carried which had been paid for by Russian sources. It now says that around ten million people in the US saw the ads, and that 44% of total ad impressions were before the 2016 US election. Strikingly, for 50% of the ads less than $3 was spent. This suggests that many of the ads were micro-targeted. A recent article in the Washington Post confirms the precision of the operation:
“Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election.”
However, there is increasing evidence that an even more sophisticated approach was used to influence voters in the US election, and on a far larger scale, by the little-known company Cambridge Analytica. The company certainly played a key role there, as its Web site proclaims: “Cambridge Analytica provided the Donald J. Trump for President campaign with the expertise and insights that helped win the White House, causing the most remarkable victory in modern U.S. political history.”
Perhaps the best exploration of Cambridge Analytica and its methods is an article originally published in German last year, and available in English on Motherboard. It describes the field of psychometrics, which seeks to measure psychological traits. The “OCEAN” model uses five axes to do this: those of openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
An otherwise rather obscure field was revolutionized by the work of the researcher Michal Kosinski. He had the